What If I Can't Keep My New Baby?
The Dilemma of an Unwanted Pregnancy
Without going into any of the heated politics on both sides of this issue, the fact remains that unintended pregnancies do happen.
If the mother, for whatever reason (economic hardship; being underage; health concerns; housing issues; etc.), is unable or unwilling to keep and raise her child, there must be some resource in place to assist her in offering a safe alternative.
The traditional adoption route is always available, but for mothers who did not give birth in a hospital setting, they may be unaware of this option.
Once a staple of the child welfare scene, these institutions have largely faded from existence. It was a sad place for a child to be; there was often inadequate staffing, and the children were not always well treated.
Dickens' showcases this failing in his famous work, "Oliver Twist," from which the musical production "Oliver!" was adapted. This was the era when orphanages and workhouses for the poor were at their peak, and while there may have been some degree of dramatic exaggeration on the part of the author, the point made is valid.
No parent really wanted their children to end up in such a place. Back in those "bad old days," many residents were, indeed, orphans; their parents having succumbed to one or another terrible disease then common.
Other parents, faced with unemployment and no resources reluctantly sent their children to orphanages because they could no longer care for them. It was sad all around.
The Orphan Train
In 1853, the Children's Aid Society was formed by Charles Loring Brace. It endeavored to place abandoned, orphaned and unwanted children in new homes. This was a cooperative effort by Brace's institution, along with the Children's Village project, founded by 24 philanthropists, and also New York State's Foundling Hospital.
Many of the children were sent to the expanding West on trains to be placed with families eager to adopt. Brace saw this as a solution to the sad situation of children in orphanages or workhouses.
Eventually, this bold experiment led to today's system of foster care homes.
Today, many states have laws allowing a parent to safely, and in most cases, anonymously, surrender a newborn to a participating site for placement with an adoption agency.
In California, where I live, for example, this must be done within 3 days following the birth, and parents have up to 14 days to change their minds and regain custody.
Similar laws are in effect in many states, all with their own variations.
Generally, a "safe surrender" site will be either a hospital or a fire station, as both places have medically trained personnel on duty 24 hours a day.
This is a viable option for those who, for whatever reason, chose not go to a hospital to give birth. The child is given a coded anklet with no names attached, and the infant is given over to the Child Protective Services, where it will be placed in temporary care until the reclaiming period has ended. At that point, the baby can enter the adoption system.
The ACLU has a well-thought-out set of guidelines that should be considered for states considering safe surrender laws.
Pass the Word
There are still too many items in the news about babies being found abandoned in unsafe places.
If you know someone who is pregnant, has chosen to carry and deliver the baby, but will not be able to care for the infant, please inform them of these safe options.
If this article can save even one or two babies from a sad fate, I will feel rewarded.
© 2018 Liz Elias